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Britain pledges to halve CO2 output

  |   May 18, 2011 at 11:46 AM
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LONDON, May 18 (UPI) -- Britain will halve its greenhouse gas output by 2025 from 1990 levels, Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne said this week.

Huhne told members of Parliament that the target, agreed by the government, would "set Britain on the path to green growth."

"It will establish our competitive advantage in the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy," Huhne was quoted as saying Tuesday by the BBC.

Britain would be "a different place and transformed for the better with warmer homes powered by green energy, many more cars powered by electricity and far less reliance on fossil fuels to drive our economy," he said.

The opposition criticized the targets as not far-reaching enough but politicians across Europe and several environmental groups lauded them, saying they were ambitious.

The pledges are the world's first legally binding carbon dioxide reduction targets that go beyond the 2020 date. They're set out in five annual carbon budgets that detail how Britain could reach its long-term target of slashing CO2 emissions by 80 percent until 2050.

Huhne said London would review the British and the European progress in 2014, a move aimed at ensuring that Britain doesn't push forward alone and that its allies in Europe keep up. If they won't, then Britain could emit more during the second half of the decade, a backdoor criticized by the opposition.

Britain's energy-intensive industry has been worried that the new climate protection targets would hurt them. Huhne said his ministry was drawing up "a package of measures" that, to be unveiled by the end of the year, would help companies adjust to the new targets and remain competitive. The new targets would help, not hurt the industry, he added.

"It will generate jobs and export opportunities in these sectors -- maintain energy security and protect our economy from oil price volatility," Huhne said. "It's a framework for growth, not just for action on climate but for growth and prosperity."

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on climate protection, had advised London to reach its budget not by become overly active on carbon markets such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme, but by slashing emissions at home. Huhne said he had chosen a practical middle course.

"We will aim to reduce emissions domestically as far as is practical and affordable," he said. "But we also intend to keep our carbon trading options to maintain maximum flexibility and minimize costs in the medium to long-term."

Consumer protection groups have warned that energy prices could rise massively as a result of the new targets, but Huhne said there would be no price hikes in the coming years.

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